Turketta: An invented word for “turkey prepared porchetta style.” Sometimes spelled turchetta. Porchetta – the word is the feminine diminutive of porco (pig) – is a stuffed and rolled roast of suckling pig; the dish is associated with central Italy and Sardinia.
My October column for the Visual Thesaurus (cross-posted on Vocabulary.com) admires the colorful coinages of autumn, with a close look at fall-ify, a newish verb meaning “to add autumnal touches to something”(décor, clothing, makeup); and the bountiful word-blends created from “October.” Along the way, I navigate the trans-Atlantic autumn/fall divide, the verb-making power of -ify, and the history of Oktoberfest and its many X-toberfest offspring
In the San Francisco Bay Area we have Sharktober (the season of peak shark migration and human-shark encounters); Australia celebrates Frocktober to raise money for ovarian cancer research (the Frocktober Challenge: wear a dress every day in October). Other specialized -tobers include InkTober, which invites artists to create one ink drawing a day for a month; Poptober, a Boy Scouts of America popcorn sale; Socktober, which donates socks to homeless people; Pinktober, a breast-cancer fundraising campaign (and a registered trademark of the Hard Rock entertainment company); Monstober, a Disney Channel games promotion; Overstockober, a month of discounts on the Overstock.com website; and Sicktober, often accompanied by a hashtag symbol and a sad-face emoji.
Sicktober in the wild:
I've almost used an entire roll of Costco toilet paper from blowing my nose. Yes, I lead a glamorous life. #Sicktober
Gefatke: A pancake made of chopped fish and grated potatoes. A portmanteau of gefilte (literally “stuffed”) fish and latke; both words are Yiddish in origin.
“We already have the Cronut, crookie and pretzel croissant,” writes Michele Henry, a staff reporter for the Toronto Star. “Why not the gefatke? Or is it a lafilte?”
Latkes, Henry reminds us, are traditionally eaten at Hanukkah, the eight-day festival of lights that ends this year at sundown December 24. “But, at most other times of the year, we lavish holiday tables with different goodies, including a sort of fish-loaf — shaped into pucks and poached — called gefilte fish. It’s an acquired taste.” (It’s also the perfect substrate for the hottest horseradish you can tolerate.)
Still, this nice Jewish girl thought we’d be remiss, in this age of hybrid foods, not to squash together two of my culture’s most storied dishes, turning gefilte fish and latke into gefatke (or, if you prefer, lafilte).
She enlisted Toronto chef, restaurateur “and member of the tribe” Anthony Rose to realize her vision. Then her Star colleague tweaked it just a bit, adding some Thai fish sauce for a little extra flavor. (Recipe here.)
As a portmanteau, gefatke lacks the recognizability of last year’s Thanksgivukkah. The inclination is to rhyme the stressed second syllable with cat, which suggests an unwelcome (though probably not inaccurate) connection with dietary fat; latke, by contrast, rhymes roughly with plot-keh. (The vowel sound in ke is a schwa.) The alternative, lafilte, is just too Frenchy for this dish.
The recipe, however, sounds delish. If you’re in New York, you may want to make your gefatkes (or whatever you call them) with artisanalgefilte fish from the nicely named Gefilteria. Or you can make your own gefilte fish from this recipe, courtesy of the equally nicely named Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco.
There are no sons named Wise at Wise Sons. The deli takes its name from the “wise son” of the Passover ritual. The Jewish year 5771 translates (approximately, depending on the precise date) to the civil year 2011.
Happy Hanukkah and, as Julia Child would have said in Israel, b’te-avon!
Mother’s Day, as you surely know, is Sunday, May 11. Let’s celebrate in our own special way: with a roundup of “Mom” and “Mother” brands. (Skip to the end if you’d rather read about the semantic shadings of “mom” vs. “mother.”)
Smile Mom is an Android and iOS app that’s “a mobile social community for moms” as well as a “social baby book” that “guides you through important milestones of your child while organizing family videos and photos.” It was launched in 2013 by the Korean software company Smile Family.
Mom Meet Mom“is a Match.com for the stroller crowd,” TechCrunch reported in January 2014. As the company itself puts it: “We have created a sophisticated matching algorithm designed exclusively for Mom Meet Mom to help you find local moms with similar interests, schedules, families, and personalities.”
Momdoms—a mashup of “mom” and “condoms”—was conceived (sorry) to give parents “a clever, yet funny tool to start the sex conversation with their kids.” Fast Company reported last December that Momdoms condoms “come in tins featuring 1940s and ’50s-style women—i.e., the moms—and classic bits of mom wisdom: ‘Don't Make Me Come In There!’” Also available personalized with your own (or your mom’s picture).
You’ve heard the old advice about never eating at a place called Mom’s. (It’s not really all that old: Barry Popik tracks it back to Nelson Algren’s 1956 novelA Walk on the Wild Side.) Plenty of restaurants blithely ignore the warning. One of the newer ones: Dear Mom, a hipster-ish joint (kale tacos; a dessert called The Dude) in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.
Café Mom doesn’t serve food: it’s a virtual watering hole, established in 2006, “where moms come for conversation, advice, friendship, and entertainment.” No mom-and-pop outfit this: “We are the premier strategic marketing partner to the best brands, offering innovative custom solutions, contextually relevant media, and performance-driven targeting in order to help advertisers win with our audience.”
Save the Mom sounds like an earnest nonprofit, but—hello!—it’s another “social” website and app. Founded in 2012 and based in San Francisco, Save the Mom “was born to help modern families in their daily communication needs, trying to aggregate in one place all the information shared within a family that now are scattered among sms, phone calls, emails, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the likes [sic].”
Let’s not forget the most sinister mom of all: MomCorp, the creepy corporate behemoth (beheMother?) on “Futurama” (Comedy Central).
MomCorp owns Mom’s Friendly Robot Company, Mom’s Friendly Delivery Company, and Mombil, which collects and sells dark matter. MomCorp also manufactures the LPad. (Should that be a lower-case L?)
MomCorp is not to be confused with Mom Corps, “a professional staffing and career development firm” founded in 2005.
Here’s a tip: whenever you see a brand called Mother rather than Mom, furnish your own air quotes.
To be sure, there’s still a sweetly single-entendre Mother’s Cookies. Founded in Oakland in 1914—and named to honor the new holiday of Mother’s Day—it went bankrupt in 2008 (corporate bonds scandal), and was relaunched as a Kellogg’s brand.
Old Mother’s Cookies logo. The mother is considerably younger-looking now.
But the newest incarnations of Mother take maternity a bit less literally.
Mother, from Sen.se (“Sense”), is a device that “imbues everyday objects with the gentle nagging power of our awesome moms” (according to TechCrunch). The gizmo stands about 6 inches tall, weighs 1 pound (450 grams), and bears a striking resemblance to the Shmoo from Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner” comic strip. (Like Mother, self-sacrificing Shmoos live to please.) In exchange for $222 you receive one Mother and four Motion Cookies—tiny sensors that can be affixed to toothbrushes, flowerpots, espresso makers, and other objects (or people) to check whether they’re being used properly.
The more I read about Mother, the more familiar its story sounded. Here are the opening paragraphs from the “Meaning of Life” page:
In 2003, we founded Violet based on this vision: all things will be connected. Violet led the way creating a Wi-Fi rabbit with an unpronounceable name. Its statement: from now on, anything can be connected to the Internet, anything, even rabbits.
Ten years have passed. Day after day, our 2003 dream is becoming more of a reality. Ten years have passed, but our vision has changed. This why we have created Sen.se. Back then, we thought the key words were things and connection. Today, we are convinced that the real issues are called life and meaning.
Aha! I wrote about that “Wi-Fi rabbit with an unpronounceable name”—Nabaztag—back in 2007.
Other Mother brands are even more arch. Take the related ad agencies Mother New York and Mother London. Here’s how the former’s website describes its offerings (capitalization and punctuation verbatim):
Misc. festivities, Short films, Longer films, Puppetry, Fine spirits, Internet things, Video games, High quality still photography, Business cards, Sausage making, General Knowledge.
The denim brand called MOTHER—all caps—is based in Los Angeles and sells $200 jeans (but not, you know, mom jeans) at Nordstrom, Piperlime, ShopBop, and Revolve. The styles have names like The Looker and The Cruiser.
Finally, some observations about mother, mom, and mama:
“Gradually, over the past couple of decades, mom has become an acceptable synonym for mother in journalism — no longer thought to be too casual, informal or personal.” – John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun, July 29, 2010
“This week Pew Research Center announced that, after decades of decline, an increasing amount of American women are “stay-at-home mothers. … Pew avoids ‘mom’ throughout their study, instead opting for the more venerating mother. (While moms make beef stroganoff, mothers are busy being matriarchs.)” – Katy Steinmetz, Time, April 11, 2014
“People hearing tot mom for the first time sometimes ask if it’s connected to another parenting-related compound word that has gained prominence in recent years: baby mama. Like tot mom, it means more than just a mother whose child is still a baby. A baby mama is an unwed mother, often one who makes trouble for her ‘baby daddy’ with her ‘baby mama drama.’ Where did these extra meanings come from?” – Neal Whitman, “Tot Moms and Baby Mamas,” in the Visual Thesaurus, July 11, 2011. (Neal goes on to answer the question.)
“Mom is everywhere and everything and damned near everybody, and from her depends all the rest of the U. S. Disguised as good old mom, dear old mom, sweet old mom, your loving mom, and so on, she is the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wedding. Men live for her and die for her, dote upon her and whisper her name as they pass away, and I believe she has now achieved, in the hierarchy of miscellaneous articles, a spot next to the Bible and the Flag, being reckoned part of both in a way.” – Philip Wylie on “Momism” in A Generation of Vipers (1942)
Easter is a major Christian holiday, of course, but it’s also a big season for candy makers, second in sales only to Halloween (in the United States, at least). But there’s more to Easter candy than sugar and food dye. From Peeps and Jelly Belly to Tic Tac and Kit Kat, my new column for the Visual Thesaurus, “The Sweets of Easter,” takes a bunny hop through the candy store, exploring candy etymologies and brand-name origins. Full access is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt:
Peepsaren’t only for eating. There are contests around the country for Peepza (Peeps on a pizza) and Peepsonality (Pinterest boards with Peeps-inspired recipes, crafts, or art; Just Born owns the Peepsonality trademark). In 2010 an inventive cook created a recipe for Peepshi (sushi-styled Peeps). There are also competitions for Peeps dioramas. I even found a Passover-themed Peeps exhibit: the ten plagues from the Book of Exodus rendered in Peeps bunnies. (For display only: Because of their corn syrup content, Peeps are not kosher for Passover consumption.)
In 2009, Just Born, the parent company of Peeps, expanded the product line by introducing Peeps Lip Balm in four flavors: grape, strawberry, vanilla, and cotton candy.
The Snickers candy bar, introduced in 1930, was named after a horse belonging to the Mars family. I wrote about the Snickers “snacklish” ad campaign in a 2009 Visual Thesaurus column, “We Speak Brandish. Do You?”
The Food Timeline Library has well-documented histories of many candies, including pralines (very different confections in France and the U.S.), halva, Turkish delight, and Pop Rocks.